Steven Anderson, a notorious anti-gay preacher who celebrated the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, has been prohibited from entering Ireland. It’s the first time the country has ever used its 1999 Immigration Act to ban a foreigner.
“I have signed the exclusion order under my executive powers in the interests of public policy," Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told NBC News in an emailed statement.
Anderson, 37, had planned to travel to the capital, Dublin, to preach on May 26. He was said to be invited by Stuart Houston, a Baptist preacher from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
But Irish activists caught wind of the planned trip and organized a petition to deny him entry. The petition, which catalogued Anderson's long list of "hate comments," claimed victory after receiving more than 14,000 signatures.
Steven Anderson founded the Faithful Word Baptist Church in 2005 in Tempe, Arizona. The church meets in a strip mall that shares the address of his personal fire alarm business. From his desert pulpit, Anderson has drawn global attention and condemnation for a number of hateful and controversial comments about the LGBTQ community: He applauded the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, where 49 mostly gay patrons were killed, saying the victims “deserved to die"; he told his congregation in 2009 that he prays daily for the death of then-president Barack Obama; and in 2014 he proposed the extermination of LGBTQ people as a "cure for AIDS." He also denies the Holocaust, according to the Irish Times.
Anderson's homophobic and transphobic views make him an extreme outlier. Majorities of even the most conservative Christian denominations support LGBTQ rights, according to a March poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI.
In addition to Ireland, Anderson has now been banned from entering the U.K., Canada, Jamaica, Botswana, South Africa and the Netherlands for hate speech. However his social media profiles remain online on platforms owned by Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.